How is it possible that given an opportunity to act in secret, ANC MPs would still reveal themselves as Zuma loyalists?
Answer: the audience they’re playing to doesn’t care much about protecting Constitutional democracy, and won’t until it experientially knows and feels the connection between its interests and the rule of law.
Before explaining that further in Part II, I think it’s crucial to understand why we must anticipate the ANC’s next move.
Many are speculating that the ANC intends to recall President Zuma. If that’s true, then the ANC’s “self-correction” will happen at a huge cost to Parliament. When the ANC was cornered about Zuma before the vote, its defenders’ responses to media and other parties implicitly agreed that there were only two choices before the party’s MPs:
On the one hand conscience, duty towards the country and the Constitutional fulfilment of the parliamentary oath, all of which weighed strongly towards supporting the motion of no confidence.
On the other hand was (at best) the choice to keep the party united long enough to discipline its bad seeds as it saw fit later on, without letting opposition parties score points in Parliament. This second choice would swing ANC MP votes strongly towards not supporting the motion of no confidence.
But this undermines Parliament’s reason for existing (even if those parties were just scoring points!) because it captures the power to hold the Executive accountable from Parliament to Luthuli House. But because democracy is abstract while the ANC isn’t, stealing from democracy to shore the party up (with the whole country watching) is easier than taking candy from a baby.
This is all assuming no one from any opposition party voted against the motion of no confidence without first telling the National Assembly. If the ANC alone rejected the motion only to support it later in another forum, it’s saying other party MPs aren’t to be trusted to propose motions in good faith for the Republic; therefore, the ANC has to protect its existence over-and-against Parliament’s mandate. Even when the other parties are right, they mustn’t get a chance to act on it before the ANC does.
When, then, will the ANC ever let Parliament do its job on ANC office-bearers?
The ANC MPs defended this choice by pointing out “the hypocrisy” of parties that don’t deal with their wayward members and former leaders. Whatever its merits, the weakness in that argument is that the country has already rejected those parties (and whatever hypocrisy they may or may not be guilty of) by not voting those parties in as national government. If the ANC will not protect Parliament because doing so would be going over and above the standard supposedly observed by other parties, then the party is calling on South Africans to grade its success not against the Constitution, but on the curve in relation to how well or badly other parties deal with their leaders. Then there is no distinction between itself and those other parties insofar as protecting democracy ahead of party interests is concerned, and who wins 2019 becomes not a question of who deserves to win, but who has the most campaign resources and funding. From there, it is only a matter of time before who wins court cases becomes a question of who has the most money for the most expensive lawyers. Our judiciary has been exemplary, but it cannot hold out against capture forever; South Africa needs to also do its part.
If we rejoice at a pre-2019 Zuma recall, then in the build-up to the 2019 elections the ANC will tell South Africans that it is a listening party that’s serious about dealing with corruption — but it won’t say, “we deal with corruption by undermining the democratic institutions, like Parliament, that were created to deal with it.” Our complacence at this is a kiss goodbye to all that has not been undermined, all that has not been captured.
Although waiting on internal ANC disciplinary accomplishes the same end as a successful motion of no confidence in Parliament, it does so by choosing what can be done over what ought to be done. It’s the politics of the pragmatically possible over principle. It’s Machiavellianism. In that case, all our thinking on law, principle and virtue must conform to and justify whatever the ANC say as events unfold. Their preying on our fear of speaking up is consistent with Machiavelli’s understanding of Fortune as a woman that must be beaten and mauled into submission:
“it is better to be impetuous than cautious, because Fortuna is a woman” who “more often lets herself be overcome by men using such methods than by those who proceed coldly”.
As such, voters — I mean the good Fortune of being elected to administer public funds — is a “friend” of men who are “less cautious, more spirited, and with more boldness master her”. If she is not subdued, she will use her courts and other pillars of democracy to walk all over rulers who are too diplomatic or “effeminate” to overpower her.
Obviously, Mduduzi Mañana has been taking notes. So has the rest of the ANC.
How does one resist?
One does not until one has the numbers to do so.
How does one mobilise them?
The answer is in Part II.
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